Landmark court case with a decision handed down on August 30, 1983 by the US Third Circuit Court
of Appeals. This was one of the first court cases involving cloning
of a computer. Apple Computer Inc
. prevailed over Franklin Computer Corp
. and -- unlike the situation with the IBM PC's -- Apple clones were never a major factor in the marketplace.
When Franklin began selling the ACE 100, an Apple II clone, Apple sued in court claiming copyright and patent infringement. Apple sought an injunction claiming irreparable harm. The lower court denied the injunction and Apple appealed. The Appeals Court reversed the lower court and granted the injunction - in effect forcing Franklin to cease selling Apple II clones. The significance of this case was threefold:
The court ruled that machine language code was copyrightable, and
That the media on which it was written -- in this case ROM -- was irrelevant, and
That operating systems, not just applications, could be copyrighted.
Ironically, the code that Franklin copied was mostly licensed by Apple from Microsoft. Franklin could have easily licensed this code from Microsoft themselves and reverse engineered the small sections that did in fact belong to Apple.